Women of the World Wednesday: Frances Anne Kemble (1809-1893), also known as Fanny Kemble, was born into an English theatrical family. She moved to New York City in 1832 for a play featuring her father. At that point, she was an established actress herself. For two seasons, Kemble traveled toured with the United States, performing to welcome audiences.
Despite Kemble’s success as an actress, she thought of the profession as pretentious. She retired from acting in 1834 and married Pierce Butler, heir to a wealthy Georgia plantation. She then published an account of her acting called Journal of a Residence in America, for which she received much negative criticism.
At the same time, her marriage began to fall apart. Kemble could tolerate with the slavery on the plantation, and she moved back to Europe in 1841. She formally broke with her husband in 1846 and returned to the stage. She then moved to Italy, where she wrote A Year of Consolation.
In 1848, Butler sued Kemble for divorce in a highly publicized case. After a year the divorce was granted, and Butler received custody of their two daughters. Kemble then returned to the United States and made a career of performing Shakespeare’s works. Kemble later published Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, documenting her firsthand experience living on a plantation. She also wrote several other autobiographical works, poetry, and a novel.
Source: "Frances Anne Kemble." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography in Context. Web. 8 Apr. 2014.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Steel engraving after painting by Alonzo Chappel after painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence, copyrighted by Johnson Wilson, & Co. Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. LC-USZ62-69903.